activism climate change transition towns

The sizzle: selling climate change

The science is more robust than ever, but public awareness hasn’t risen. Political will is stagnating, and the climate is playing second fiddle to the economy on the international agenda. It’s not lack of information, argue Futerra, the sustainability communications agency. It’s a matter of presentation. “Climate change is no longer a scientist’s problem – it’s now a salesman’s problem”.

Their advice is to stop talking science, and start telling stories. Or to draw on 1940s advertising theorist Elmer Wheeler,  “don’t sell the sausage – sell the sizzle!” In particular, the climate change future is hellish. It casts doomsday visions of rising seas, melting ice, killer heatwaves and freak weather. It’s a future nobody wants, but that seems inevitable. The doom is so vast and tragic that all action looks futile. The result is either paralysing fear, or denial. Neither of these gets us anywhere. It’s time to change the story. Say Futerra, “we must build a visual and compelling vision of low carbon heaven.”

It’s not a new idea. After years of wondering where I should focus my own energies, I bypassed the campaigning route to get involved in Transition Towns, precisely because they’re positive. Taking climate change, peak oil and the recession together, here’s a community-centred movement that starts at home, one town at a time, and moves together towards sustainability. It’s simple, one step at a time. It’s positive, and it’s powerful. It builds community, gets neighbours working alongside each other.

Keeping it positive and selling a vision is also what SmartMeme suggest, another communications agency, and describe in their book Re:imagining change.

So what do Futerra bring that’s new? Some interesting perspectives and observations, new ways to describe things. Images and stories are for the vision, which comes first. Facts and figures are for the plan, which comes afterwards. Make things as local as possible. Know your audience, both those that accept the challenge of climate change and those that don’t. And keep that positive vision front and centre:

“Open all and every communication with the promise of heaven. In just one sentence you can describe a desirable and descriptive mental picture of a low carbon future. This captures the imagination and taps into those starved and withered emotions: hope, a sense of progress and excitement about tomorrow.”

In our local Transition group, we talk about creating a ‘vibrant, resilient and low carbon Luton’ in an effort to avoid the idea of a dull and worthy green future.

Anyway, if you’re working on communicating climate change, Sizzle is worth browsing. You might find some of the media-speak a little irritating, but it’s an important reminder. You can download it here.

68 comments

  1. Let me play devil’s advocate here and offer a few observations and theories about this. I would love to get feedback from Jeremy and others.

    1. While predictions of doom have been around a long time, and the movement toward sustainable living has been slower than a snail’s pace, “sizzle” like Transition Towns (which I respect and admire) have also been around for some time. Can we really conclude that doom doesn’t sell and heaven does? I see very little real evidence that heaven is selling any better than hell.

    2. Here is my theory: Selling the “sizzle” is like trying to keep someone from stepping off the curb in front of an oncoming bus – not by shouting, “Stop, there’s a bus coming!” but by saying, “Look how heavenly things are here on the sidewalk.” Most of us wouldn’t take that approach. But of course once you bring attention to the bus, the danger is quite immediate and obvious. So we do know that climate change offers communication challenges because it is slow (sure wish it was slower, however) and less obvious. Perhaps that is why selling heaven seems like the best approach.

    But why are the results of that sales campaign proceeding slowly, too? I believe it’s because stepping in front of the bus (metaphorically speaking, now) looks so good. Our cultural narrative is that life is good. If we can just “get the economy moving again” we can enjoy road trips, jet powered vacations, trips to the mall, and continue polluting our way to consumer nirvana. So the sales pitch from movements like Transition to stay on the sidewalk, that “heaven is over here, in a low-energy lifestyle,” aren’t terribly effective. People need first to recognize that stepping in front of the bus is not so great. When they’ve been programmed from birth to believe stepping in front of the bus IS heaven, it takes more than a vision of an alternative heaven to sell them on the benefits of the sidewalk.

    Therefore, I believe there is a need in this world for both types of communication. Somehow we must chip away at the myth that business-as-usual life is good, so that more hearts and minds will be open to the good news that there is another option and it is wonderful. That is the doom part of the message, or the message that we are getting very little fulfillment and satisfaction out of our current lifestyle. But simultaneously people need to know what the alternative is, so they won’t be paralyzed with fear when the realization hits that a bus is coming or that life in the bus lane ain’t that great.

    Would love to know your thoughts.

    Dave Gardner
    Filmmaker
    (GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth comes out this October!)

    1. Interesting. Of course both are needed, and ‘sizzle’ recognises that. It just suggests that the good stuff needs to come first, a call for vision as well as a realistic choice. It would be wrong to sugar coat things for people, and there’s a risk that some greens oversell a sustainable future as some kind of happy communitarian utopia.

      As for Transition Towns, its worth remembering that the first one was only started in 06, so it’s grown into one of the world’s most powerful environmental movements in just five years. Something’s definitely clicking.

    2. I think what we’re talking about here are really another aspect to perpetual fundamental questions:

      “how do you get people to do what’s in their own best interests ?”
      “how do you encourage people to engage with worthy causes ?”
      “how do you get people to stop being apathetic and take positive action ?”

      Clearly I’m not going to have any answers, but I am so energised by these questions that they really formed the basis for my Next Starfish blog.

      Leaving aside the tricky question of ‘what gives us to right to decide what’s in people’s best interests’, here are my thoughts (one-line style):

      – we need to ‘keep it real’ – no exaggeration or hyperbole, acknowledge uncertainty & disagreement (otherwise we risk seeming like zealots or single-minded unreasonable types)

      – we need to ‘walk the walk’ – we all need to be role models. In addition if we’re not ‘living it’ ourselves then we’re hypocrites . . .

      – we need to ‘go to where our audience are’ – culturally. We need to use reference points that are meaningful and relevant : no good talking Walden Pond, if our audience wants to hear Cheryl Cole.

      – we need to offer, and be satisfied with, ‘baby steps’ – no one’s going to 180degree their lifestyle overnight, and putting pressure on anyone to do so is too big an ask and a turn-off. Instead movement towards has to be achievable through small increments.

      – we need to ‘get off our high horses’ – it’s far too easy to slip into us/you – either through preaching, condescension, arrogance, bullying and judgementalism.

      – we need to ‘deploy’ a variety of messages in a variety of styles. Debating whether carrot/stick/heaven/hell works best misses the fundamental point – some things work better for some people than others. We should do it all, targeting appropriately.

      – we need to NOT be seen as a sub-culture. Western society is full of hundreds of sub and counter-cultural groups from vegans, to goths, to back-to-basics types, to libertarians . . . I’d advocate we try hard to avoid environmental and social justice ideas being pigeonholed on this basis. We need to demonstrate that environmental and social justice concerns can be adopted by people living any lifestyle.

      What I’m trying to do with my own blog is to show real world examples of positive change that people can make in their own lives, using myself and others as far from perfect role models – I’m hoping by keeping things fairly light, non-preachy and encouraging I can attract visitors and encourage them to take steps towards positive change.

    3. Thanks for a great comment, Dave. It does seem that humans behave differently in short-term situations than in long-term. I think the problem why neither is working for climate change, however, is that the current culture is to be swayed by short-term benefits and very short-term negatives. Afterall, if the bus was far enough away, you would risk jumping into the road if, for example, it meant that you could save your dog, or simply cross the road, knowing that you would have enough time to get out before the bus hit you. I think the analogy must be adapted rather to be accurate – the road is very sticky, and it actually takes a long-time to struggle off it, so even if the bus is miles in the distance, it may be too late to get off the road before it hits you. Also, climate change does not have a bus driver, so will not slow down for you.

      I think the difficulty is not in persuading that the bus is coming, or knowing that we are in its path if we don’t do something about it, but that getting off the road is just too much effort to be justified simply by the bus being in the distance, especially since we’re quite enjoying being in the road, for now. But give us a park to play in, rather than the road, and we’ll make an effort to get off the road so that we can play in the park! That’d be so much more fun, right?! Oh, and we just happen to be out of the path of the bus.

      What do you think? Rather abstract analogy now, I know.

      Unfortunately, I do think you’re right that doom does, to some extent, sell, but largely because the alternative is seen as no better, and takes rather more effort, rather than because the doom model is heaven already. I think the alternative does not just have to be more attractive, but also seem effortless to achieve, for it to be adopted.

      1. I think the first step needs to be effortless, with lots more steps behind it to get to where we want to go. Our whole way of life needs to be transformed, and that’s difficult and not an easy sell, but broken down into steps, there’s no reason why we can’t act.

        The problem with the ‘doom’ view is not so much that it doesn’t sell. Newspapers love a scary climate headline (and it’s the media that create the dreaded ‘alarmism’, not scientists by and large). The problem with the doom scenario is that it makes action seem irrelevant. The world is going to hell in a handcart – now change your lightbulbs. Some of the climate hell scenarios may be correct, and they should motivate people to action, but they’re just as likely to drive people to despair and despondency. That’s what makes the ‘heaven’ alternative so necessary.

  2. Well, well, another “there’s nothing wrong with the message, the problem is the presentation” cry. Trouble is – it’s the message that’s the problem.

    “Lipstick” and “pig” come to mind.

  3. Thanks, Jeremy. I think a lot of people aren’t looking for the good stuff. They think they are living the good stuff, and someone may need to slap them upside the head with reality. And Transition’s growth is amazing, yet I run into people all the time who have never heard of it. The movement has a LONG way to go. I’d like to find every way possible to send them more open minds.

    1. You’re dead right about “open minds”, Dave. And I suggest that those who are advocating the need for urgent action should, instead of fussing about presentation, open their minds to the difficult and serious task of persuading the rest of us of the validity of each the following claims:

      1. first, that recent warming is not a continuation of natural variation but is somehow anomalous;

      2. then that the primary cause of the anomaly is Mankind’s emission of “greenhouse” gases, especially CO2;

      3. then that, if the anomaly continues, it will cause serious problems for humanity and the environment;

      4. then that the solutions proposed would avert these problems;

      5. then that the solutions proposed are cost effective; and

      6. then finally that the solutions proposed are politically and globally achievable.

      Then (and only then) would be the time to worry about presentation – although I doubt if it would be necessary.

        1. Oh dear, Jeremy, you’ve totally missed the point. A reminder: this thread is about the difficulty you and your chums are having in persuading “the public” (i.e. the rest of us) that … er, “the climate change future is hellish”. Now you folk in your little green bubble may like to think that my six propositions have been satisfied. But – and this is the point – no one else does. So you’ve got a real job to do. And just asserting that I’m wrong isn’t it. Also – and mark this – better presentation isn’t it either.

          But I’ll concede that some aspects of presentation might be improved as well.

          For example, I suggest that Futera (the green PR firm that – surprise, suprise – advocates more green PR) might have a word with two of their clients: Greenpeace and the UN. They might advise them that the unconverted are disgusted (but not surprised) to learn, as we were told on Friday by your erstwhile ally Mark Lynas (http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/questions-the-ipcc-must-now-urgently-answer/), that a “scientific” paper about renewables recently published by the UN’s IPCC was in reality no more than a campaign report written by the climate change activist organisation, Greenpeace – i.e. propaganda. Worse, it was propaganda co-authored by none other than the renewables industry’s trade association, European Renewable Energy Council. And, worse still, one of the IPCC’s “lead authors” was the very Greenpeace employee who was responsible for their report.

          It’ll take a lot more than pretty “images and stories” from Futera to offset the stink caused by such dishonest, rent-seeking behaviour – behaviour paid for by our taxes. And behaviour designed to create further regulation and even greater despoliation of our precious countryside.

          Yes, my lipstick on a pig analogy was fairly accurate.

        2. Further to the above, a quotation from Lynas:

          “[I]f the ‘deniers’ are the only ones standing up for the integrity of the scientific process, and the independence of the IPCC, then I too am a ‘denier’”

          Me too. How about you, Jeremy?

      1. 1. Recent Warming: It has not warmed for over 16 years. Oceans are cooling, Ice is returning to old levels, Ocean rise is decelerating, Solar activity has fallen sharply with Cycle 24. We are currently entering a Cold PDO phase. http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2009/11/temperature-cycles.html Historic Temperatures can be modeled with a .388 degree per Century Linear + Sine Wave. Observations match this projection.

        2. Primary Causes: There exists absolutely no empirical evidence for a Co2 warming signature in the Troposhphere. Models were clearly wrong. The Solar data was incorrectly adjusted via grafting the wrong data into the ACRIM Gap.

        ” IPCC climate computer models do not correlate with observations and that temperature trends vary substantially between North America and Europe (which is contrary to IPCC computer model predictions). Note that while the total solar irradiance (TSI) only varies by about .1% over a solar cycle, the solar UV varies by about 10% and that secondary effects on cloud formation may vary up to 30% over solar cycles. The IPCC computer models dismiss the role of the sun by only considering the small variations of the TSI and ignore the large changes in the most energetic and influential part of the solar spectrum – the ultraviolet.” http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2011/03/geophysicist-explains-how-sun-controls.html

        Both the CERN CLOUD project and the Danish SKY Experiments confirm the Solar Cloud link the IPCC choses to ignore. That’s a 10% UV and 30% cloud variable being discarded from GCM’s. CERN is set to Publish results within a couple months.

        3.The “Anomaly” Ceased over 16 years ago: Solar observations are showing a near spotless sun and speculation of another Dalton or Maunder type Minimum is beginning to appear.

        4-6. Untill empirical data showing Co2 and not Solar are driving climate is presented these are irrelevant.

        1. Jeremy: here (amirlach’s post above) is an example of a sceptic launching into a rant (albeit a reasonably well-informed rant) that has nothing whatever to do with this thread. Now compare that with my presenting a measured, if sometimes colourful, view on the key and directly relevant issue of how best to engage the wider public. Get it now?

          1. Fair enough. And you’re to be commended for not deleting it. BTW it would have been out of order under your excellent but sadly abandoned Guidelines.

          2. Your first statement.”The science is more robust than ever.”

            The best place to start with “Engaging a wider Public” in regards to Climate Change might be to address the issues causing the public to lose faith in the AGW theory and the science behind it. See above.

            Things like the failed predictions of the end of snow or the barbeque summers. Data manipulation scandals, like those seen in New Zealand and Austrailia, now the US is beggining to investigate Mann and Hansen. Models and theory not meeting up with empirical data. Or when claims are made that while the data does not support the models and theory the data must be incorrect.

            More Robust than ever? Not one GCM predicted the 16 years of no warming. No GCM predicted the regional Climates observed between Europe and North America. The 38 million weather ballons that measured temperature failed to find the Troposheric Hot Spot AGW predicted, they also found humidity has decreased which is also contrary to AWG theory. Climategate revealed that theory and models are given more credit than empirical data that disagrees. Data and methods withheld, preventing independant confirmation also hurts the cause. Compare this with the Svesmark Solar theory. It is being independently verified.

            Want to engage a wider public? You need to first address the issues with the science. Because your first statement glosses over one of the “key issues” with the publics falling belife in man made Climate Change. The deeper people look into this the more it just does not add up.

          3. I stand corrected. Yes, your first comment was related to this thread – the science is far from robust and, as you indicate, getting worse. But, with respect, it would have been better had you specifically tied that comment to the opening statement. Jeremy is very sensitive about these things.

  4. I’m just not interested in hearing about your skepticism every time I make even passing mention of climate change. If you want to discuss climate science, I suggest you do it on a climate blog.

    1. Jeremy: you headed this post “The sizzle: selling climate change” – remember? That’s not a “passing reference”, it’s the subject of the post. Its message is that “Climate change is no longer a scientist’s problem – it’s now a salesman’s problem”. And that’s precisely what I have addressed above

      There was a time when you said this was not a climate blog. I welcomed that – you produced some interesting and challenging material little discussed elsewhere. Most unfortunately it’s you, not the commentators, who has turned it into another climate blog – this post being a good example. Why you’ve done so is hard to fathom.

      1. This isn’t a climate change blog. Around one in ten posts (I’ve counted) deals with it from one angle or another, which seems fitting for a problem of its scale. And I’m interested in solutions to a changing climate. That it is changing is a given.

        1. I’m also interested in the changing climate. Whether there are any “solutions” or whether any are needed are, in my view, matters best discussed on a climate blog.

          But this particular post is about climate change and specifically about whether it is, as Futera asserts, “no longer a scientist’s problem – it’s now a salesman’s problem”. I’ve drawn attention (above) to the consequences of the IPCC doing just that: it has abandoned integrity and independence and, with help from Greenpeace, has followed the Futera recommendation and become a salesman. That would be bad enough. But, far worse, it’s become a salesman for the renewables industry which stands to gain huge financial advantage from such IPCC/Greenpeace propaganda . In my view, such dishonest, rent-seeking behaviour (at our expense) is a disgrace. Surely that is precisely on topic?

          1. Climate Change and more accurately Man Made Climate Change was never the “Problem” of science. It has always been a political and or social problem. Science is supposed to be based on evidence not social policy or advocacy.

            The attempts to steer people away from the Science have failed from the start and will not work now. The “Sizzle” might attract interest but people like to know whats in the “sausage”. To stop talking about the science when the science is still very much contested simply won’t work.

            Al Gore’s proclimations of “The Science is settled! The debate is over!”. Are in hind sight ironic as his award winning (sausauge) film was so chock full of sawdust, smoke and mirrors. No amount of slick sales pitches or slogans could hide the fact his “Settled Science” wasn’t settled or science. It was all Sizzle and no Meat.

            I agree with Robin regarding scientific integrity and independance. Melting political advocacy and science into one agenda has corrupted the science. The IPCC needs to be reformed and the science seperated from policy making and the policy making seperated from the green energy investors.

          2. Policy is separate from science, that’s why the IPCC was set up. It has no power, and can only make recommendations. It’s far from perfect, as we know, but right now it’s the best we’ve got. At the moment the UN administers it, and the UN itself is in obvious need of reform. But if you’ve got an alternative international, independent organisation that could take over, I’d love to hear of it.

          3. But, Jeremy, if – as you think – the IPCC was set up so that policy would be separated from science, it got it wrong from the outset. It has always been the case that, when the IPCC issues a report, it publishes also a “Summary for Policymakers” (SPM). And it”s the SPM (written by a committee of bureaucrats and government appointed scientists) that informs governments and therefore informs policy. Worse, nearly always the full report follows the SPM by weeks if not months by which time the media for example has lost interest. Therefore if, as is so often the case, the Report itself is weak on evidence – a recent example being the renewables report referred to above that was co-authored not by independent scientists but by a renewables industry trade association and the activist organisation Greenpeace – that is easily overlooked by the policymakers. This arrangement ensures that, not only is policy not separated from science, but policy has precedence over science. This has led to the situation where, as amirlach says, the man-made climate change issue is not, as it obviously should be, a matter of scientific evidence but a matter of social policy or advocacy. That is wholly unsatisfactory.

          4. And my point is that, because the IPCC set-up means that policy and science are hopelessly intermixed, it is not a disinterested body – remember: it’s an “intergovernmental” organisation. Experience shows that the claims made in the SCMs (see above) too often are not based on proper objective evidence – and it’s those claims that inform policymakers. (I could provide you with examples – and will if you so wish.) So the IPCC is driving if not making policy. And that’s unacceptable: evidence should be the sole concern of a truly scientific body. The only consolation is that, apart from the UK and EU (and that looks shaky), most countries have woken up to this and are ignoring the IPCC.

          5. Jeremy: before we go too deeply into the IPCC issue (and, as I said, I’m willing to do so), I think I should point out that we’re in danger of drifting away from the topic. So I’ll act as moderator and remind you that amirlach has, very properly, drawn out attention to the opening sentence of this post: “The science is more robust than ever”. He’s shown, with several examples, that that’s simply not true. And he’s concluded, completely correctly in my view, that that’s why people are increasingly not listening. As he says, “attempts to steer people away from the Science have failed from the start and will not work now. The “Sizzle” might attract interest but people like to know whats in the “sausage”. To stop talking about the science when the science is still very much contested simply won’t work … all Sizzle and no Meat.”

            That’s well said and spot on topic. And that’s what we should be discussing. Fixing the IPCC’s lack of integrity and independence provides an example of what needs to be done – but the essence of this is that more or “better” presentation, as advocated by Futerra, is irrelevant to the real issue.

          6. But this is the unwinnable debate, isn’t it? I say the science is robust, you say it isn’t. A thousand comments later we’ll be no closer to anything. You might find it entertaining, I wouldn’t. So don’t mind me if I spend the time writing about the 101 other things I think are important.

      2. Yes, Jeremy, and not only do you think the science is robust but you also think (and I find this extraordinary) that “The science is more robust than ever”. That’s what you said. And I’d be very interested to see your evidence for it.

        But that would be to digress from the point of this thread. It’s not about what you think nor about what I think about the robustness of the science. It’s about what the majority of people – the majority who do not see climate change as an important issue – think about it. In the West, people have had the dangers of climate change hammered into them over and over again for the past twenty years and yet their belief in the reality of those dangers continues to decline. So it seems reasonable to conclude that, unlike you, they are not persuaded of the robustness of the science. Yet Futerra thinks that that decline can be reversed, not by tackling that – the real issue – but by better “presentation”, by telling new “stories” – by selling the “sizzle”. And your opening comments indicate that you agree with that analysis.

        You raised this issue even if you now say it isn’t important to you. And I suggest, Jeremy, that you have a solution. It’s this:

        When you talk of the science, I assume you mean the claimed “consensus” that the climate is changing for the worst, that mankind is responsible, that, if it continues, conditions will get very dangerous, that there is a practical solution and that that solution must be implemented urgently. And it seems you think that the science supporting that consensus is robust and getting more robust. Am I correct? Well, that’s your sausage. Tackle that head on – recommend that it’s not “a salesman’s problem”, that there is sound evidence supporting your conviction and that that evidence needs to be clarified and communicated plainly to the public. Without gimmicks and without sales tricks. If you’re right and the science is indeed robust, if the evidence is clear, it should be relatively easy to win the public over. Far from an “unwinnable debate”, it would be a win/win – I win because you agree that Futerra is mistaken about “presentation” and you win because you have a solution to the problem you yourself raised.

        Agreed?

        You observe that I find all this “entertaining”. Well, that’s true. It’s not often that a subject comes along that is seriously important, that has massive and controversial ramifications in science, in domestic and international politics, in economics and in human nature. I have no illusions that I can have any serious effect on its outcome but I find it fascinating to watch it develop and to get involved in discussion with interesting people such as yourself about such a remarkable issue.

  5. And you’re taking it as an opportunity to air your skepticism, as you always do. Forgive me if I’m less than excited at the prospect of going over the same ground again, every time you turn up.

    I’m all for scientific rigour, but there are over 18,000 references in the IPCC’s working parties. It doesn’t bother me that Greenpeace may feature in that list – not least because they are the ones doing the investigative work on many of the side-issues that the IPCC may be referencing. Deforestation, for example.

    But to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And to a climate denier…

    1. This has got nothing to do with scepticism: it’s not about with whether or not the dangerous AGW hypothesis is well founded. Therefore, it is not “going over old ground”. Nor is it about Greenpeace (whom I have supported in the past) featuring on that list. It is about the IPCC’s recent unacceptable behaviour in abandoning scientific independence and promoting commercial interests. And it’s directly on topic.

      Don’t take my word for it. Mark Lynas is no sceptic but a well-known CAGW activist (viz. his book “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet”). I seriously suggest you read what he has said on this matter before you attack me again with silly comments about hammers and nails. You’ll find it here:
      http://www.marklynas.org/2011/06/questions-the-ipcc-must-now-urgently-answer/

      1. I know Mark Lynas. I have his books and he has a point about the UN’s overzealous press office. What I object to is that I wrote about positive examples, transition towns, and you just can’t resist another opportunity to express your ‘disgust’ at the IPCC and my ‘chums’ on this side of the climate aisle.

  6. Look, I like the Transition Town movement. In my experience, it comprises some very nice, friendly people doing excellent, positive stuff (e.g. advising about the availability of free compost) – albeit IMHO for the wrong reasons. But please reserve your comments about the IPCC’s recent behaviour until after you’re read the Lynas article. It’s about far more than an “overzealous press office”. And, re the subject of this thread, it’s an excellent example of how abandoning science for presentation (as recommended by Futera in “Sizzle” – which I have read ) can be horribly counter-productive. Remember: the aim of Futera’s recommendation is not to make the convinced feel good but to persuade the unconvinced that they’re wrong.

    1. Have you read it? It doesn’t tell anyone to abandon the science. It says don’t rely on figures to get people’s attention, that stories are more engaging than numbers and stats.

      1. Page 6:

        “We believe that climate action is no longer a scientist’s job; it’s now a salesman’s job.”

        1. Thanks, I had that quote in the first paragraph of my post. The point is that people don’t respond to science. You’re interpreting that as ditching the facts and making things up, which is (obviously) not the point. “We must be honest” they say, just in case. “climate campaigns can also generate the opposite of sizzle.”

          1. You’re not paying attention. I’m not accusing Futerra of “ditching the facts and making things up”. No, what I am saying is that, instead of fussing about “presentation” (i.e. “a salesman’s job”), those who advocate urgent action should face up to the more difficult and serious task of persuading the rest of us that the facts justify such action. Your patronising claim that “people don’t respond to science” is unworthy of you.

  7. Jeremy, I suggest stop giving ignorant climate change denier’s your time by responding to their absurd comments. The majority of your readers are, I am sure, with you on this one, but don’t respond in comments because, to be honest, you’ve said anything that they might want to say on the subject! I am certainly in this category. In fact, I normally read your blog by email, so don’t even see the comments.

    Thanks for the great links and information and I totally agree that selling the sizzle is important, and is in many ways what the Transition Towns movement is all about.

    1. You’re probably better off reading by email, considering the quality of debate around here right now! But thanks for checking in. You’re quite right that there is a silent majority that is in agreement.

      1. Unfortunately (from your perspective, that is) the evidence is that the “silent majority” is not in agreement. That’s why (to get back on topic and again from your perspective) what’s needed is not better “presentation” but to face up to the difficult and serious task of persuading the the wider public that the facts justify urgent action. So far, you’ve failed. (And BTW smearing critics as “ignorant climate change deniers” may make you feel good but it won’t assist that process.)

        1. We’re talking about the majority of this blog’s readers Robin. If we were talking about the wider public, you’d still find that the majority of people accept that climate change is happening and that human activity is a factor.

        2. Robin, who the hell are you?? Who the hell are you to say what the “silent majority” of Jeremy’s readers are thinking?! Who the hell are you to presume that many others who may not be acting on climate change necessarily believe that it is happening? Or that those who have an opinion (such as you) are any wiser and more informed than those who simply don’t know? Who the hell are you to presume that this blog, or any other on the subject for that matter, has been written with the premise that we want to persuade the “wider public” of our views and, even if we did, that one particular failure (yours) is more important than a silent reader’s introverted self-questioning, especially when Jeremy has implicitly stated that this persuasion is not his intention, but that this blog works on the the existing presumptions that come with being an informed member of society i.e. that climate change is real, and has been affected by human actions? Do you not see how inconsiderate you are being to Jeremy, fellow readers of this blog who do not hold your view, and to those who do hold your view, but who respect that the issues they want to raise are not those at the core of this blog’s material?

          And, have you nothing better to do than argue with those who have differing views from you, without any hope of persuading them to your own point of view (this is, by the way, the case, just in case you were mistaken)? I have, And for this reason, this will be my final comment on the subject.

          1. Well, Simeon, that was a nice polite comment. Well done.

            As for the “silent majority”, I misunderstood Jeremy on that point (see below). OK?

            I most certainly do not assume that I am any wiser or better informed than others. And regarding Jeremy’s blog, I admire it for its unusually open minded approach and, as I commented above, for its coverage of interesting and challenging material little discussed elsewhere. But my comments above refer very specifically to the subject matter of this thread: the Futerra (a PR business) proposal that a new approach to presentation (“Sizzle”) is needed if public awareness of the climate change issue is to be improved. So you see this thread is explicitly about the wider public. And it is very much about persuasion (that’s what PR firms are for). And, yes, I wholly agree that’s not “at the core of this blog’s material”. As I also said above, I find it hard to fathom why Jeremy (not me) has chosen to move away from that core.

            So I suggest you pay attention.

            A final comment. I have found that this blog (almost uniquely) enables some most interesting exchanges of view – from very different perspectives. For example, I had one last week with Next Starfish (who has also posted above). It starts here:
            https://makewealthhistory.org/2011/06/11/what-we-learned-this-week-95/#comment-10747

            I suggest you read it. You’ll learn something about my position on climate change and something about how people with differing views can treat each other with courtesy.

  8. Fair enough – I misunderstood. And you could well be right also about the wider public. As you know, I for one agree that climate change is happening (as it always has) and that human activity probably contributed to late twentieth century warming.

    1. Yes – very nice, Simeon. Even poetic perhaps. And it illustrates well my point above about the Transition Town movement comprising some very nice, friendly people doing excellent, positive stuff. But there’s the problem: judging by Transition St Albans (local to me), those nice friendly people (your “silent majority”) are essentially all well-educated, well-heeled, white and middle class. But where are the less well off working people? Where are the ethnic minorities? Where are the unemployed and the otherwise disadvantaged? I’d be surprised if much the same did not apply in Norwich and Bungay. My friends at St Albans agree it’s a problem and I’m sure would agree on the need for a much wider public to be engaged. The problem is how to do it.

      And that (how to engage the wider public), Simeon, is the subject of this post – and may well be why Jeremy has drawn our attention to the Futerra proposal. And that’s precisely the issue I’ve trying to address above. So perhaps you’d care to rethink your unneeded hostility – or do you think wider engagement is too difficult or even unimportant?

      1. I’m unemployed. I’m in thousands of pounds of debt after going through a degree which is now all but useless in the current jobs climate. I don’t know about Transition Bungay, or Transition St Albans, or Transition Luton, but I know that Transition Norwich is largely made up of low-waged and unemployed people, from those who I’ve met so far. And despite that, and sometimes because of that, they want to engage in a positive movement that tackles climate change.

        I don’t know how the start of this comment thread (starting “Talking of”) was at all hostile. Nor is this one. Yours, however, when the original comment wasn’t even directed at you, was.

        As for the actual content, I don’t pretend to have any opinion on the matter, apart from that I agree with the concerns it raises, and thank Jeremy for drawing my attention to it. I am very interested in engaging the wider community, however, but this will never been done by arguing whether or not climate change is happening, or even by persuading those who are skeptical by thrusting scientific facts in their face that they don’t understand. The only genuine way of persuading people is to tell stories. Those stories will have to be based on fact, of course, and be positive, and have “sizzle” that draws people in.

        1. OK, Simeon, there’s a measure of agreement here. And it’s interesting to hear that Transition Norwich reaches the wider community. But was I wrong to assume that your “ignorant climate change deniers” and “absurd comments” was a reference to me? Of not, to whom?

          You asked me yesterday “who the hell” I was to make various assumptions. So – although I wouldn’t normally use such language – it seems reasonable to ask you who the hell you are to assume there’s no point in trying to persuade “those who are skeptical by thrusting scientific facts in their face that they don’t understand”. That’s foolish, self-defeating nonsense. I, for example, am one of hundreds of thousands of sceptics who understand the scientific (and I should add the economic and political) facts very well – and it looks as though Bernie (below), with his short analysis of how the “AGW greens” are destroying environmentalism, is another. But, as I said before, we don’t assume we are wiser or better informed than others and are very ready to engage with people like you. But, if you refuse to engage with because of foolish preconceptions about the level of our understanding, you’re not going to get anywhere and our numbers will continue to grow rapidly. Is that what you want?

      2. Spotted my Next Starfish tag a couple of posts up, and was tempted into posting – clearly Robin’s flattery paid off !

        But what to say ? I’m not really sure what all the heat is about in this argument (pun intended).

        If some people choose (and it is a choice) to ‘believe ‘ in global warming and others ‘don’t’, so what ?

        I don’t think we should set-out to prove the error of our ways to each other, like some intellectual crusade. Non of us are climate scientists (are we ?), so our views won’t actually shape the development of scientific understanding. I might be proved wrong, but I don’t think what we do or don’t say to each other on this blog will shape the future of climate science.

        But obviously non of us like having our core beliefs challenged, questioned or mocked – we risk entering that space where we start slipping into a variety of defence mechanism cliches, from angry rant, to passive aggressive, right through to infuriatingly detached observer (usually my preferred role) . . . and bit by bit the anger level creeps up and we end-up attacking each other – especially easy in anonymous and dehumanising webworld where we can’t easily soften our messages with humour, smiles or body language.

        The world is full of difference – religion, politics, beliefs, cultures – and we all rub up against each other more and more every day, as we’re all more interconnected. If a bunch of guys (yep – we’re all guys!) who profess an interest in making the world a better place can’t leave our ego at the door when debating the technical details of recent climate science on a ‘saving the world type site’, what chance is there in the fractured communities of the Congo, Belfast or Detroit, were fear and distrust is ‘just a touch’ more visceral ?

        I too like this blog, I think Jeremy’s a cool guy for allowing this level of dissenting comment and personal criticism (as least that’s how some of it looks to me) – I certainly wouldn’t. I like the contributors and ‘intellectual cut and thrust’, we all need to test out our pet ideas and theories, open ourselves up to challenge, and expose ourselves to new ideas. As a species gentlemen, I’d suggest if we people like us can’t manage to do that with mutual respect on a site like this, then we’re deep in the doo doo.

        If there we’re any specific questions anyone wants another view on, fire away – but I thought the ‘love one another’ message was the most important thing to say right now . . . . it usually is.

        -STEVE-

        1. Thanks, Steve.

          I hope that the general view of me as a debater (or a person, for that matter) is judged by my first and second posts to Robin, which I admit were a little harsh, but stemmed from the fact that Jeremy has obviously been getting irate by the lack of focused debate in his comments stream, which is tending to persist on questions that have either already been answered, or where it has already been established that there is unresolvable conflict, and therefore further debate in that stream is useless.

          As for having core values challenged, questioned or mocked, the only one I don’t respond well to is the latter, which makes it worse (for me) that the first thing I wrote could be construed as mocking. Having said that, if someone did call be an ignorant climate change believer, I would respond by trying to understand why they thought that of me, rather than just retaliating with further mocking. I will not, however, respond for someone else’s sake. I’m selfish, and I admit that if I offer a response to your question, it is because I’d like to further understand your position and use it to inform my own or that I feel that you would benefit from further understanding my position to spread my own values into the “wider public”. It is because some of the responses above offer neither, and essentially just stop a good debate in its tracks, that I get frustrated and angry.

          I hope that anyone can see from my more recent posts that this frustration has dissipated, now that I’ve come to see that the debate on here is not entirely ignorant climate change deniers bashing well-informed climate believers :P, but does have some very interesting exchanges. You’re certainly welcome to comment on my blog any day!

          1. Indeed, ‘unresolvable conflicts’ are common enough on this blog. Nobody wants to abandon the thread and look like they’ve been beaten, and in the end it just becomes a matter of who has the most time on their hands.

  9. The AGW hypothesis is destroying the entire environmental movement. There are so many real pollution issues that need attention but governments can side-step them by focusing on CO2 as the pollutant of choice. The Green movement has been seduced and is fighting the wrong battle.

    Chemical run-off from farms, Genetic modification of our food chain, plastics in the ocean, etc. Fukishima is hardly mentioned in the mainstream media anymore but it is an on-going disaster. So many things sidelined by AGW. When this climate caper finally dies the environmental movement will struggle for decades trying to re-establish credibility.

    A small group of scientist have sold out for political purposes and started a stampede. That which is called Climategate revealed their antics. The hockey-stick graph was outright fraud. It’s all a pity because we do need to live much more simply than the average Westerner. I revere the works of Buckminster Fuller, whom I always saw as a technological greenie. The Green movement is important but it mounted what it saw as a powerful steed in AGW, but it’s a crippled donkey.

    1. Well said, Bernie. I agree. But I hope you realise however that, from Simeon’s perspective, that makes you an “ignorant climate change denier” making “absurd comments”.

      Incidentally, have you read Peter Taylor’s book “Chill”? If not, I suggest that you should. Taylor is a scientist and committed environmentalist with extensive experience of sustainability, pollution and energy policy. He is pungent in his detailed, analytical criticism of the IPCC’s view of the dangerous AGW hypothesis and, like you, is dismayed at the damage such views are doing to genuine environmentalism. (Yes, another “ignorant climate change denier” making “absurd comments”.)

  10. Thanks Robin. I’ll get hold of Chill. It’s interested that with the predicted cooling of the planet that no government seems to have any plans for that contingency.

    I read that Monckton called Garnaut a Nazi. Unwise. The media will murder him for that in spite of it being not as bad as calling AGW doubters ‘deniers’ and thus linking them to those who deny one of history’s worst crimes.

    When looking over the various blogs it’s clear that both sides of the debate have become intractable. It’s like a boxing ring but where the ref says “go back to your corners and come out quoting”. References, counter references, counter, counter references, etc.

    To me, the biggest danger to the planet is not AGW but the release of untested genetically modified organisms into the environment (untested in the sense that we simply accept the biotech companies test results. No independent testing). Well, it was, until Fukishima. I’m very glad that I live in the southern hemisphere, far from the radioactive winds, in Melbourne (where they filmed On The Beach. Fukishima makes me feel like that scenario is being played out).

    1. Yes, you’re absolutely right about the intractable nature of the debate. The internet is part of the problem here, where we get ‘the news we choose’ rather than the news that matters. No matter how left-field your theory, there’s a blog out there promoting it and ridiculing all other theories. It polarises everything, and drives people to extremes. It’s why I don’t regularly read either the main climate blogs or the main skeptic blogs.

  11. Actually i would tend to disagree that “People don’t respond to sciene”. The many failings of the IPCC’s science is directly responsible for the decline in support for AGW. People do look at the science. When all predictions fail they start to question the “Science”.

    “But this is the unwinnable debate, isn’t it? I say the science is robust, you say it isn’t. A thousand comments later we’ll be no closer to anything.”

    I also disagree with this statement. I have clearly shown that there is no empirical evidence for AGW. No Hot Spot, No increase in humidity detected by 38 million weather ballon missions, no Evidence for AGW in the empirical records as predicted. Yet you still belive the Science is “More Robust than ever.” Maybe the evidence won’t convince you but it is convincing many others as polls suggest.

    “We must be honest” they say, just in case.” Honestly the data does in no way support the AGW theory.

    The best “Evidence” the Warmist Scientists could muster was “Theory and Computer Models” at a recent debate in Europe. At the end of the debate they had to concede that the Evidence did in no way support AGW. Theory and Models are NOT evidence.

    “The scientific position and ability of PIK scientists during that meeting was rather weak. Whenever they had to agree that observation do not show any special increase neither in extreme weather, temperature nor sea level and so on, they mentioned: ‘But our models show…’ “ http://notrickszone.com/2011/05/18/skeptics-and-alarmists-clash-at-climate-conference-german-scientists-call-pik-scientific-position-weak/ http://www.prisonplanet.com/schellnhuber-admits-%e2%80%9cclimate-science%e2%80%9d-would-not-stand-a-chance-in-a-public-debate.html

    In science there are three legs to the stool. Theory, Numeric Modeling and Empirical Evidence. When the Evidence does not support the theory you toss out the theory. In IPCC Climate Science you toss out the data or “Adjust” it.

    The last statement is.” It says don’t rely on figures to get people’s attention, that stories are more engaging than numbers and stats.”

    If the “Numbers and Stats” supported AGW it would be engaging. They do not so sweeping them aside is the obvious solution. People are bored to tears with the Doomer Narative and failed predictions. More “Stories” will convince no one.

    And speaking of “Numbers and Stats” where did the Like-Dislike Vote go? Or is it another case of the “Story being more Engaging than the Stats?

    1. You, just there in your comment, “have clearly shown that there is no empirical evidence for AGW”. That’s funny.

      But honestly, I know how this game goes and I’m not playing.

      1. But why is it “funny”?

        As you know the term “AGW” refers to the hypothesis that mankind is responsible for the warming trend experienced at the end of the twentieth century, and that, if urgent action is not taken to curtail it, its continuation will put humanity and the planet’s ecosystems in serious peril. However, as amirlach says, no empirical (i.e. real world) evidence validating that hypothesis has been identified. And that’s despite the billions of pounds/dollars expended in its quest.

        Nonetheless, the Western world – especially Europe and most especially the UK – is hell bent on combating this non-existent problem, thereby undermining our economies, bringing misery to some of our poorest people (often to the advantage of the rich) and despoiling large parts of our most beautiful countryside. Possibly worse, it means we are lowering our guard against the many other risks that may well threaten us in the twenty first century. And it’s doing this despite the plain fact that the rest of the world – and especially the big developing economies – are unconcerned about the “problem”.

        And you find it “funny”.

          1. Sorry, Jeremy, but it seems you don’t understand how science works. Amirlach didn’t do anything so foolish as to claim he had “disproved” the AGW hypothesis. No, he pointed out (accurately) that there’s no empirical evidence supporting it. There’s a vast difference: it’s the task of those who promulgate a hypothesis to produce testable, empirical evidence (by peer-reviewed research) that supports it. So far, those who hypothesised about dangerous AGW have been unable to produce such evidence – despite, as I’ve just pointed out, the billions of pounds/dollars expended in its quest. (If you don’t believe me, read the IPCC’s AR4 report, Chapter 9 – “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change”. Read it carefully: you’ll find no reference to any such evidence there.) Of itself, that doesn’t “disprove” dangerous AGW – it simply means that it’s still no more than an interesting hypothesis.

            The fact that we are taking the damaging actions I referred to above on the basis of an unverified hypothesis isn’t remotely funny.

      2. “But honestly, I know how this game goes and I’m not playing.”
        Yes Denialisim will do that.” Despite all the evidence you refuse to accept it.

        And there’s my question. “And speaking of “Numbers and Stats” where did the Like-Dislike Vote go? Or is it another case of the “Story being more Engaging than the Stats?”

  12. If the IPCC had the evidence they would present it.

    It’s no wonder the alarmists want to stop talking about the Science and focus on “Stories”. The Science does not support them.

    The true goal of the IPCC is not to stop global warming it’s to Redistrabute Wealth through regulation of Co2.

    Ottmar Edenhofer: “Climate policy is redistributing the world’s wealth” and that “it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization.”

    Edenhofer went on to explain that in Cancun, the redistribution of not only wealth but also natural resources will be negotiated.

    More on PIK, the losers of the recent Climate debate and Ottmar. A German with a plan to transform the world. What could possibly go wrong? http://www.pik-potsdam.de/ipcc

  13. Okay, enough is enough. Not sure if making this comment and NOT checking the box will get me unsubscribed to this thread (I hope so), but might I suggest this dead horse has been beaten to death here?

Comments are closed.